Molly Watt on Accessibility

Matthew Standage

Last month Molly Watt gave a talk at UX Oxford ( ‘Is your window open to all?’ ) on accessibility and inclusive, mostly in digital environments on the web.

Molly Watt is an inclusive technology evangelist and accessibility and usability consultant. She is also the co-founder of the Molly Watt trust, a charity raising awareness of Usher Syndrome. Molly has spoken at a number of international organisations, companies and in government on accessibility. Molly has an incurable condition, Usher Syndrome, which is the most common cause of congenital deaf-blindness.

Molly’s thought provoking talk highlighted some of the issues she has encountered and observed through her life. In particular, she focused on the grey areas of accessibility that make all the difference to lots of users but often fall through the gaps between accessibility guidelines and checklists.

Accessibility matters for everyone

Molly highlighted that accessibility and inclusivity is important for everyone. We can all suffer a temporary disability, whether we break our arm or have temporary sight problems, and therefore we rely on products and services being inclusive and accessible. At OCC we aim to ensure our products are accessible to everyone and, in particular, we have invested significantly in improving the accessibility of our Online Financial Assessment Calculator tool.

Most blind people do not use screen readers

Molly also highlighted an important point that only c5% of blind computer users use a screen reader to access content. Often we have a tendency to focus on the extreme edge cases, e.g. users with no sight at all, but we also need to remember users who have partial sight loss have accessibility needs.

This importance of testing with users

Molly stressed the importance of testing your work with users with accessibility needs. Checklist and automated tools are really useful, but you need to test your product with users to understand the nuances of accessibility and usability that fall between the guidelines and checklists.

Keep it simple

Molly also highlighted the usefulness of keeping thing simple. She praised the design work by Apple on the iPhone and Apple Watch, creating simple user experiences and helpful accessibility tools. Simplicity is useful for everyone, helping users to focus on the most important content and streamlines the experience. Companies like Siegel and Gale have highlighted the impact of simplicity in branding and corporate communications for many years.

On the whole, it was a very enjoyable talk and opened my eyes to accessibility issues faced by people who fall between the gaps in accessibility guidelines and checklists.

OCC is proud to sponsor UX Oxford and support the wider UX community in Oxford. Making things inclusive and accessible is one of our design principles.